For nearly a year, rank and file Democrats in Congress had been negotiating on what would’ve been the largest reimagining of the government’s role in public life since the New Deal. President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda encompassed initiatives to address climate change, universal pre-K, expansion of the child tax credit, free community college, affordable housing, and expanding Medicare to cover hearing benefits — just to name a few.
As time went on, the bill’s scope and cost continued to narrow at the behest of Senator Joe Manchin, a conservative Democrat from West Virginia who wasn’t on board with the more aggressive measures the administration wanted to implement to combat climate change or policies like paid family medical leave for people who have just become parents or are seriously ill. Coupled with Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema’s opposition to raising corporate taxes to help pay for the landmark legislation, Democrats were in a tailspin for months trying to stitch together a bill that was always hanging on by a thread. Ultimately, Sen. Manchin came out against Build Back Better altogether, dashing the hopes of those that wanted to see more progressive policies enacted to address a host of our nation’s problems.
In the wake of Manchin effectively killing the legislation, there have been hopes that something “resembling” Build Back Better can rise from the ashes. Or that, perhaps, large pieces of it that have Manchin’s support can be passed separately. Taking the elements that had Manchin’s support, such as (moderate) clean energy initiatives and universal pre-K, along with a shorter list of changes he wants to see — in essence, something smaller in scope — would have a chance at clearing both the House and the Senate. According to Sahil Kapur and Benjy Sarlin of NBC News, some of those policies entail more subsidies for the Affordable Care Act, expanding Medicaid in states where it’s been limited, policies aimed at deficit reduction, and eliminating tax loopholes while increasing tax rates for the wealthy.
Yet, all talks aimed at reviving a new version of Build Back Better are stalled indefinitely. It’s unknown when renegotiations will resume, but inflation, Biden’s Supreme Court nominee, and the crisis at the Ukrainian border have taken center stage. Hundreds of thousands of Russian soldiers are stationed along Ukraine’s border, with the threat of an invasion incredibly high. Biden has warned of harsh economic sanctions against Russia should Vladimir Putin choose to invade Ukraine, but Russian soldiers have not retreated and thousands continue to be added along the border.
Furthermore, with Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer announcing his retirement several weeks ago, Biden and his aides have been vetting potential nominees to replace him — eyeing a candidate who can be confirmed on a bipartisan vote. With Biden’s promise during the 2020 election that he’d nominate the first black woman to the Supreme Court, the three frontrunners are Ketanji Brown Jackson (a circuit judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for Washington, D.C.), Leondra Kruger (an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of California) and Michelle Childs (a district judge for the district of South Carolina).